In watching this week’s episode of iZombie, I decided to let go of my vision of the more character-driven, serialized version this zombie drama could be and embrace the fun, quirky nature of the crime-of-the-week drama that it is. If you haven’t already done this, I highly recommend it. Season 1, Episode 7 (“Maternity Liv”) was another solid installment of zombie crime-solving with a brainy side of personal drama, and — with my new perspective firmly in place — I enjoyed the hell out of watching this quippy, cohesive story unfold.
When Liv eats the brains of a recently deceased mother-to-be, her maternal instinct kicks into high gear. This works narratively on two levels. First, it gives Liv an emotional engagement to the case past the basic empathy she generally has for all of her brain-people (do we have a name yet for the people whose brains she eats?), as she is worried about the surviving baby of the woman whose brains she has just ingested. Though I’ve accepted the murder-of-the-week serial, the formula still works much better when iZombie is able to make the murder personal to Liv and, therefore, to us viewers. “Maternity Liv” does just that.
Secondly, the maternal instincts gifted with the brain allowed Liv to reflect on her zombie-ism in a new way — specifically the fact that, if Ravi doesn’t find a way to reverse her condition, she will never be able to have her own children. Interestingly enough, this is currently a storyline being explored on another CW show: The Vampire Diaries. Though iZombie doesn’t dwell too long on this point, it is a subtle reminder of the many potential futures that was taken from Liv when Blaine turned her into a brain-eating zombie. I could have done without the conflation of the maternal instinct with making grilled cheese sandwiches and patting down people’s hair, but I’m not going to dwell on it. If you’re looking for some diverse, nuanced depictions of motherhood that never falls back on superficial cliché, check out Orphan Black.
One of the things that make Liv so likable as a protagonist is her determination to use this terrible thing that has happened to her as a learning experience. That’s not to say that she never feels sorry for herself or gets fed up with the injustice of it all (though, frankly, she could probably get away with a bit more of that), but she is pretty darn optimistic about this whole zombie thing. Not only does she have faith that Ravi might find a cure, but she uses the experience of inheriting the traits of the brains she eats to gain perspective on her own life.
In this episode, Liv’s determined optimism manifests when she uses her glimpse into the motherhood she may never experience herself to better appreciate the family she already has. Though I still think Liv’s mother and brother are underutilized and underdeveloped, this episode took a step in the right direction by reiterating how important they are to Liv. Previously, the show has mainly told us, not shown us this connection. With the exception of Liv go largely fallen back on the assumption that of course Liv loves her family. As we get further into this series, it will have to do better, but — for now — this was a nice moment for the Moores. Now don’t kill Liv’s brother in a horrific behind-the-scenes at Meat Cute kind of way.
Elsewhere, Major got arrested when breaking into the car of one of Blaine’s chief goons — but not before finding a human brain inside of it. The police continue to be a mostly obstructive force in Major’s hunt for his missing youth. Clive represents the potential effectiveness of the Seattle P.D. in his murder-solving and willingness to work with Liv, while the Lieutenant is at the other end of the spectrum as Blaine’s zombie man on the inside.
In this episode, the Lieutenant kills the husband and wife responsible for kidnapping Liv’s brain-person. He seems to do this to both a) keep the secret that he is an indestructible zombie and, more importantly, b) use the husband and wife duo as a cover for the missing kids Blaine has snatched for his brains business. The Lieutenant seems to be onto Liv’s own zombie-ism. Will he eventually go after her or does Blaine have a larger role in mind for our favorite undead medical examiner? I’m ready for the inevitable collision of Liv’s zombie life and Blaine’s zombie brain business. (OK, maybe I haven’t completely given up on a more character-driven, serialized iZombie…)